The Righteous Hillbillies - Two Wheels Down a Lost Highway
It’s a bit incongruous that such a dyed in the wool blues rock band like The Righteous Hillbillies hail from the comparatively sedate confines of the Midwest, but you’ll forget about geographical vagaries pretty quickly once their fourth album, Two Wheels Down a Lost Highway, opens up. This is a band obviously well versed in both blues and blues rock traditions, but they elevate the genre with their obvious command of the music and their ability to bring their personalities to the fore through the music. Their three preceding albums and numerous appearances on stages shared by some of the pre-eminent names in roots and popular music today have made a name for themselves as ranking among the top acts working today and the fourth album stands as a testament to their unquestionable power and surprising sophistication with this sort of music.
“Rollin’” opens the ten song collection with just the right balance between feel, substance, and energy. Nick Normando’s slide guitar work nicely punctuates the song without ever overwhelming the arrangement and Brent James’ vocals ring out well with a pleasing combination of attitude and soulfulness. “Throwing Stones” harnesses a little more overt musical firepower than the preceding track, but Barret Harvey’s drumming swings with the same resolute focus on the groove that makes so many of the band’s songs stick like glue to listener’s memories. “All Down But Nine” is a surging, straight ahead romp with fiery guitars and muscular, stripped down drumming that keeps coming at the listener and never lets up. The underlying organ gives real heft to the arrangement and Harvey’s capacity for swing serves the song well “Two Wheels Down a Lost Highway” is a fantastic title track that plays out in a much more cinematic way than its length might indicate. This is thanks to multiple little “mini” movements in the song that hang together quite well and benefit from a memorable Brent James vocal.
“Down to Memphis” is a mid-tempo blues rocker decidedly leaning towards the rock side of things. The sleazy crawl the band finds in this song centers on, once again, Harvey’s drumming and everything gets a shot of inspiration from his touch behind the kit. That electrified menace is dialed up a few notches on “Call Me a Doctor” and the much harsher vocal approach brings results that listeners won’t find elsewhere on this album. One of the big overall instrumental factors powering this song is the snarling attack of Nick Normando’s slide guitar playing and few songs show off his flash better than this one. His capacity for bludgeoning listeners with the big, blasting blues riffs at his disposal finds a nice workout on the song “Drama Zone” and Chris Bartley’s interspersing organ riffing fills the empty spaces with color. Two Wheels Down a Lost Highway is a sincere experience that never sounds imitative; instead, The Righteous Hillbillies have picked up the genre’s mantle and are carrying it into the future with real creativity.
9 out of 10 stars
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